Similar offenses, different discipline? Be sure to justify with critical details

When it comes to disciplining employees, details make a big difference. Be sure you include enough information in your investigation reports so you can later explain, for example, why one employee deserved harsher punishment than another who made a similar mistake.

Recent case: Erica, who is black, was a billing specialist for a university dental department.

Her job included counting and securing cash receipts, which she then deposited into the appropriate accounts. Every evening, each department would give their cash receipts for the day to Erica’s supervisor, who locked the money in a safe. Erica retrieved the cash each morning and prepared the deposit.

Her office had a locking drawer and she was instructed to always lock up the cash before leaving her office, even briefly. One morning, she left her office with cash on her desk. When she returned 10 minutes later, $100 was missing.

Erica was terminated after an investigation concluded she violated the rules on cash management.

She sued, alleging that a white employee who maintained a small petty cash drawer for making change could not account for some of that money even though she secured it in a drawer. That employee wasn’t terminated.

The university explained that while both employees lost money, Erica’s loss was more serious, since she broke specific rules on how to secure the funds, while the white worker didn’t leave cash on her desk. (Moore v. UMMC, 5th Cir., 2018)